2020 Kia Soul vs. 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Soul S/EX/GT-Line’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Soul and the Golf SportWagen have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.


The Soul comes with free roadside assistance for 5 years 60,000 miles. Kia will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Golf SportWagen.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Soul 4 years and 28000 miles longer than Volkswagen covers the Golf SportWagen. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Golf SportWagen ends after only 6 years or 72000 miles.

There are over 18 percent more Kia dealers than there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Soul’s warranty.


A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Soul’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the Golf SportWagen’s camshafts. If the Golf SportWagen’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Soul has a standard 760-amp battery. The Golf SportWagen’s 480-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 43 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 11 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.


The Soul GT-Line Turbo’s standard 1.6 turbo 4 cyl. produces 54 more horsepower (201 vs. 147) and 11 lbs.-ft. more torque (195 vs. 184) than the Golf SportWagen’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Soul Auto’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The Soul has 1.1 gallons more fuel capacity than the Golf SportWagen FWD’s standard fuel tank (14.3 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.


The Soul offers an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a CVT.

The Soul offers an available sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an SMG.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Soul GT-Line Turbo’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Golf SportWagen:

Soul GT-Line Turbo

Golf SportWagen

Front Rotors

12 inches

11.3 inches

Rear Rotors

11.2 inches

10.7 inches

The Soul stops much shorter than the Golf SportWagen:


Golf SportWagen

70 to 0 MPH

161 feet

171 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

114 feet

117 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Soul has larger standard tires than the Golf SportWagen (205/60R16 vs. 195/65R15). The Soul X-Line/GT-Line’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Golf SportWagen (235/45R18 vs. 225/45R17).

The Soul LX/S’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Golf SportWagen S’ standard 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Soul LX/S has standard 16-inch wheels. Smaller 15-inch wheels are standard on the Golf SportWagen S. The Soul X-Line/GT-Line’s 18-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Golf SportWagen SE.

Suspension and Handling

The Soul has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Golf SportWagen’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Soul is 1 inch wider in the front and 2.6 inches wider in the rear than on the Golf SportWagen.

The Soul X-Line handles at .91 G’s, while the Golf SportWagen SE pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Soul GT-Line Turbo executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Golf SportWagen S (26.8 seconds @ .66 average G’s vs. 27.3 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Soul’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the Golf SportWagen’s (34.8 feet vs. 35.8 feet).


The Kia Soul may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 300 pounds less than the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

The Soul is 1 foot, 2.4 inches shorter than the Golf SportWagen, making the Soul easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The Soul has 7.9 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Golf SportWagen (102.2 vs. 94.3).

The Soul has .8 inches more front headroom, .9 inches more rear headroom, 3.2 inches more rear legroom and .8 inches more rear shoulder room than the Golf SportWagen.


The Soul GT-Line Turbo has a standard heads-up display that projects speed readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Soul has a standard rear fixed intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the Golf SportWagen only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Soul has standard extendable sun visors. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer extendable visors.

On extremely cold winter days, the Soul GT-Line Turbo’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the vehicle heater warms up. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Soul EX/GT-Line Turbo’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

The Soul EX/GT-Line Turbo’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

The Soul EX/GT-Line Turbo’s standard GPS navigation system has a real-time traffic update feature that plots alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Golf SportWagen’s available navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Kia Soul (except LX/S/X-Line) offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) on the dashboard. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.


The Kia Soul outsold the Volkswagen Golf/GTI by over two to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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